Dear Freshman Self,
Hey faded pink and golden hue giggling over their first illegal sip of alcohol without the parents present. Hey unfathomable moments alone in the park with the slow sun rise, waking in a new place to popcorn ceilings and crinkled sheets, when rising before the sun was the best way to find rootedness in unfamiliar ground. When bitter cold air swirled with warm coffee and fresh pine made six a.m. alarms worth it. I’m glad you had those moments, the opportunity to connect with your surroundings, and steep into new waters.
Hey hushed nights drizzled in honey from the café nearest to the dorm. Hey nervous conversations and comfortable lulls that moved from class to class. Hey Malibu poured over coke and dirty shoes tripping over cracks on cobbled streets. Hey to the questions what do I want, who am I and what do I want to be. Hey to loud secrets and quiet revelations.
You were determined freshman year to make a change, a shift in identity and resistance to the ideal norm. You weaved from talkative moments shared with strangers to curt sentences with familiar faces. You thought high school was when you had learned how to read between the lines and nod when you didn’t know. You thought disliking something could be changed, forgotten. So you took chemistry and calculus, and then a couple more science classes in hopes it would eventually click and you’d know that what you were studying was worth it. You thought more makeup, more smiles, more agreement, would make transitions simpler. You thought tomatoes in salad and coffee in the morning next to buttered toast and headphones was a routine. You thought talking was enough action. You thought popcorn ceilings swirled if you stared long enough.
I’ve been learning more about you as the gap between us grows—the connection becomes clearer. Another year and a new understanding of myself. I’m in my final year of college looking back on my freshman self— it’s safe to say it wasn’t perfect. I’m proud to say I didn’t have much confidence.
I’m feeling proud to say I messed up, I took the wrong classes and went through the year without revision. Coloring in the shapes of freshman year would result in overused crayons and patterned marks; a Jackson Pollock that never got it’s frame. I’ve discovered I paved myself a trail to a path that I didn’t want to go down. It resulted in a journey unmarked and unbound, but I’m glad I didn’t abide to the mapped out guide.
I know that I learned my roots by nurturing the soil. I know that I didn’t find structure and security in high school. I know the dissonance of past and present is only the aftermath of changing history. I know now that this is good. I know now that my favorite moments are tied around unplanned days ending in organized nights. I know now that wavy hair and lavender lotion is safety. I know now that when I dream of the river overflowing I should learn to swim rather than prepare to drown.
I want to reassure you that I am finding my place. I understand you feel lost right now. The puzzle is difficult when you lose the box, even worse when you realize you might have cut some of the pieces to fit a certain way. I want to let you know curious moments are just as powerful as scheduled ones. I want to let you know you should be proud, even then. I want to let you know you are proud now.
I want to let you know that the ceilings were swirling.